Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Dearest Representative . . .

My answer to your survey question, “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” is No.  In truth, for me it is not that simple.   I know from our conversations and abundant experiences, the query is not meant to close doors; nor will you draw erroneous conclusions from the “data” collected.  I understand that you wish to hear from your constituency.  Therefore, I write.  I will present support for my opinion.  The Economic Policy Institute, CaRDI, a Multidisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Cornell University, and Michael Winerip, Education Journalist for the New York Times will serve as my surrogates. I understand that the immediate opinion polls show broad support for the President’s speech.  However, I suspect a more nuanced look may reveal that more feel as I do.  Perhaps, my words will also speak for the people who merely marked “Yes,” “No,” or “I do not have an opinion” on your and other surveys.  I can only hope that you might take a moment to ponder.

The President proposed many ideas that I believe relate to our economic health.    He spoke of taxes, the energy policy that has taxed our nation.  As a father, he addressed what I know concerns you too, education.  Indeed, I thank you once again Congressman for your active support of public education.   Enrolling your children in our local community schools speak volumes.  I believe to be one with the people is to live amongst us.  Sadly, few in Congress chose the life of the common man.  

In regards to health care, which Mister Obama also touched on in the State of the Union speech, last evening, the Congress’s separation from society-at-large is evident in policies passed and again in the President’s speech.  Possibly, he too has forgotten how the real people live.  

The President did propose one plan I endorse I think The Buffet Rule enacted would be beautiful.  I believe this might help to more fully embody an actual Democratic Progressive tax structure.

Indeed, I actually think an increased tax rate for all is the ultimate in wisdom.  Even Conservatives such as Commentator-Columnist Ben Stein and former Reagan Economic Advisor, David Stockman are in favor of this more realistic plan. President Eisenhower too would applaud this way of doing taxes.  You likely recall under Ike, the tax rate for wealthiest Americans was ninety-one percent.  Republicans are not alone in their support of a Buffet Rule.  Progressive policy wonks, such as Robert Reich, advocate for higher taxes over all.  Right, Left, and Middle, we might have a consensus.  I sincerely endorse such mutual sagacity.  

Many Economists regardless of political affiliation see the correlation…Services require salaries, supplies, and a tax structure that supports all that are needed to sustain the health of a nation.

However, this aspect of the State of the Union speech was, for the most part, the only point I applauded.  The Buffet Rule aside, overall the ways in which the President proposes we build a nation, for me, only furthers the folly.

I have long been troubled by the belief that we can eat cake endlessly; yet never buy the ingredients to make it let alone bake it.  Some may ask, “Where is the beef?” I yearn to learn where are the eggs needed to bring the cake into being.  For that matter, do we have any butter, flour, or milk?  As the President does, I ponder what is spilled.   It seems all our society thinks it takes to make batter, is sugar.

We want gas to power our cars.  However, we want the price to be low.  I loathe the idea that we might invest in more fossil fuels!  The process is quick for it is familiar.  Nevertheless, it is extremely dirty.  Quick and dirty is not as I desire.  Mother Nature tells us daily that she believes as I do.  Climate change costs us dearly; still, the President’s energy related positions push for more oil and gas.  Please allow me to offer a portion of a comprehensive Cornell University study.

The Economic Consequences of Shale Gas Extraction

The Boom-Bust Cycle of Shale Gas Extraction Economies. The extraction of non-renewable natural resources such as natural gas is characterized by a “boom-bust” cycle, in which a rapid increase in economic activity is followed by a rapid decrease. The rapid increase occurs when drilling crews and other gas-related businesses move into a region to extract the resource. During this period, the local population grows and jobs in construction, retail and services increase, though because the natural gas extraction industry is capital rather than labor intensive, drilling activity itself will produce relatively few jobs for locals. Costs to communities also rise significantly, for everything from road maintenance and public safety to schools. When drilling ceases because the commercially recoverable resource is depleted, there is an economic “bust” — population and jobs depart the region, and fewer people are left to support the boomtown infrastructure.

Congressman, as I listened to and read the State of the Union text, I cringed.  George W. Bush was all I saw and heard.  Mister Obama spoke of our energy policy and how investments in “clean power” would improve our economy.  I believe our continued investment in fossil fuels, foreign and/or domestic hurts us.  Be it income distribution, equal access to goods and services, or more importantly to me, the harm done to the planet, our continued commitments to natural gas, petroleum, “Clean coal,” and nuclear energy are anathema, as is the President’s education agenda.  

As energy does, education relates to the economy.  You may recall this an issue near and dear to me.  For as long as he has been in office, in respect to schools and learning Barack Obama baffles me.  He speaks of the need for creativity and curiosity in the classroom, and then quashes the possibility!  Often, Mister Obama refers to how teaching to the test is counterproductive to learning.  Yet, all that he and the DOE put in place are Race to the Top and Waivers. Programs.  Each encourages more and more examinations and commercialization!  

While the public is led to belief that the President understands why programs established under President Bush failed, it seems, in deed, this Head of State has only furthered the stress felt in schools.

In truth, I never understood why President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, a man whose work the business community and the Grand Old Party admired.  Again I think of George W. Bush and Jeb!  Economically we move further away from a Democratic Progressive system and closer to the regressive realities of privatization.  Public Schools are closed in favor of “Choice” Learning Centers.  Charters, while labeled public, more often drain dollars from the more egalitarian school system.  These institutions rarely provide the performance statistics promised.  Many, in reality, are privately run management firms.   Education is not their mission; earnings are!

We need only look at who is invited to the White House Education Round Tables.  Pedagogues are not welcome.  Their voices are intentionally absent from the conversation.  Influential “investors” sit with the President and his Secretary of Education.  These same persons now occupy our public schools.  Thus, economically speaking, education is now a growth industry!  

The President said in his speech, “For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning, the first time that’s happened in a generation.”  I inquire Congressman, how do we evaluate the minimal cost to the federal government and the so-called rise?   Hmm?

In Obama’s Race to the Top, Work and Expense Lie With States:

By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

In New York, that will have to cover 79 percent of all teachers, a total of 175,000 people. The only state tests for assessing teachers are for English and math, from fourth grade to eighth.

Yet, the President and Arne Duncan have persuaded the public and policymakers that the invisibles, learning and the effect a mentor has on our offspring, can be measured in a day, an hour, or on one single assessment.   I know not of you; however, in my life, even when I scored well on a test, the results did not reflect my learning.  Guesstimates, short-term memory, the fluke that is a coincidence, these are not calculated in our high-stakes assessments.  However if it were possible to accurately evaluate these, then perhaps the reliance on test scores might make some sense, although still very little.

I am reminded of a statement President Obama made in his speech last evening that I do agree with. “Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.” I think every individual outside the Hall can also point to a Professor or Academic who transformed what would be. Yet, we punish our mentors when their students do not perform on command.

I cry for the young and the old.  In truth, tears flow for every American.  The reason, in a society such as ours, there is no reverence for humanity, nay-human health.  Congressman, please indulge me as I reflect on health care coverage.  President Obama stated, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

Oh, my.  Once more regression is our nation’s reality.  May I present a bit to ponder…This quote is taken from an Economic Policy Institute Report.

Medicare Privatization: A Cautionary Tale

The private plans are only competitive because they play on a tilted playing field. When that is not enough, they resort to hard-sell tactics that take advantage of vulnerable seniors-practices that prompted an ongoing congressional investigation. They also create road blocks and traps that prevent seniors from being fully reimbursed for care.

Medicare privatizers spend a lot of taxpayer money lobbying Congress, and their story keeps changing. The original rationale for private plans was that competition would lower costs, so payments were capped at 95% of the average Medicare cost for each county. The plans still prospered by cherry-picking healthy seniors, a problem that was only partly abated through risk adjusting. Since it is now established that these plans are actually less efficient than the public one, the current claim is that they help minorities and other underserved groups, an argument that also has little merit, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Oh Representative, I lived in California when Proposition 13 and the “No New Taxes” hymn were born.  Today, I realize through President Obama’s speech, this tune grows louder.  The nation, and our democracy die.  Free Enterprise thrives.

Having read to the end, I hope you will understand.  All the information I offer in my missive to you and so much more influenced my answer to your survey question Congressman.  “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” No, I did not.  I wonder; did you?

I look forward to future conversations.  May we discuss what for me is the greatest dilemma; The State of the Union divides us as do the plans the President proposed.

Sincerely . . .

Betsy L. Angert

January 25, 2012

The People Ignored or Ignore?



Obama’s Journey: All Aboard!!!!

“All aboard?” The conductor cries out.  The people, men, women, and children file in.  The train fills quickly.  Finally, after what are only mere minutes, the engine turns.  Steam, or today, diesel fumes, billow out the pipes.  We are off on a road of no return. It is another election season. In truth, these never really begin nay end.  The cycle is as the chug-chug of any locomotive; it is continuous, monotonous, a wearisome drone.  The series starts as it always does, with hope, dreams of change, and the catechetic realization that the Messiah has come.  Soon we see this redeemer is but a man or woman, a meager mortal.  He, be he the President of the United States, the Libyan “Leader,” the “boy next door,” the “good girl,” you or me is not the savor we imagined.  

Days, weeks, or months pass.  It might even be a near three years. Nonetheless, sooner or later, perchance, all along, we realize he or she did not liberate us from all that keeps us down.  Indeed, after a while, the people proclaim Ignore this Mr. President. You already ignore.  Yet, in truth, the writer just as most the rest of us ignored reality all along.  The promises we attributed to Candidate Obama were not as we thought we heard. On any and most every subject, our redeemer realized as he or she pledged.  The problem was, as it is, we ignored, as we do today, the obvious.

Our rescuer never had omnipotent power.  He did not come with the supreme excellence we saw in the blinding lights of a projected image.  He was, as he is cautious, conservative and well connected.  She too has her flaws.  Diplomacy? That was never her style.  She Demands. Now he commands.  The President, just as the Philanthropist, is the Chief.  How did they achieve such authority and acclaim, we the people anointed, appointed and bestowed powers upon them that allow them to speak for us.  We knew who he or she was.  Yet, we told ourselves, in time, what was would be different. Hence, with all the others, we hopped onboard. Inconvenient realities?  Statements and actions contrary to what we wanted to believe? Ah, the public said in harmony, these too will pass.

In 2008 the people could have heard what hearkens forward to today’s veracity.  Obama Supports FISA Legislation, Angering Left  As Senator, Barack Obama forgave the indiscretion of wiretaps.  He voted for what was characterized as the “compromise Bill.”  The compromiser was conciliatory months before he was elected.  Six days later, other actions prompted the headline Obama’s Supreme Move to the Center, just as he has consistently done as President. Perhaps those no longer aboard think of tax breaks and the recent reforms foregone and agreed upon.  The President still does.  The question is will he again  concede and why might this be a possibility? We the people ignored the power of our silent approval

People persuaded or desperate to believe act as parents of a very young and irresistible child.  You may have seen these, easily swayed by cuteness, Moms and Dads on the train.  The tot held dearly in the arms of those who love him or her defies any and every request.  Still, Mom and Pop smile.  Looks or words of scorn are set aside.  Parents tell themselves the behavior is but a phase. Besides, in the moment, seconds after the transgression, the child cried out, “I will listen Mom.”  “I will not do it again.”  Daddy, “I did not mean to . . ”  Just as the caregivers, the bandwagon forgives the unforgivable.  

Oh, you protest. “He lied.”  “She told an untruth.” “What of the promises, those broken and the ones now characterized as a work in progress?”  Well, there always were assurances and excuses.  The need to compromise, at least temporarily is a truism, when needed.  One can say that the unfilled vows are of this milieu of compromise..

It is we who pledged much, who pulled the wool over our own eyes.  When we climbed on board we chose to suspend disbelief.  Now we scream.

I am so angry, frustrated, depressed . . . .  pick an appropriate descriptive adjective. This is a BAD deal.  It would have been far better to have a drawn a line –  A LONG TIME AGO.   You CANNOT fix the deficit problem simply by cutting  . . .

Others muse “I hate Obama,”  It seems “support for Obama depends” on the person.  Objective observers, if there are any, laugh.  How silly the scene.  Humans blame others for what they feel.   The President did as he said he would do on the campaign trail, for the most part, with few exceptions.  Indeed, how many of us when immersed in realities out of our control, acknowledge that perchance, we must take a different path?

Mister Obama is no different than the child who charms a Mom or Dad.  Just as any “newborn” does, Barack endeared himself to us by being a novel entrance into our mundane lives.  “He is cute!” exclaimed and enthusiastic country.  Magazine covers were devoted to his appearance.  President Beefcake? was quite the comer.  On board that train, heads turned.

You may recall, before “Barry” Obama ever took office a headline read, Time Nears Completion of Every Possible Obama Cover Variation.  Joseph Biden also captivated, proclaimed, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”  How could a bandwagon of people resist that dazzling smile, the cheerful disposition, and the brilliant mind, all in one man?  America did not.

I recall my own experience.  As someone who did not support Senator Obama for President, I too stood in line. I drove miles and waited for hours just to see and hear him.  A crowd of thousands packed the stadium.  We endured heavy rain as we waited.  Yet, all remained patient.  Once the doors opened, the ample audience climbed on board.  Another long delay did not quell enthusiasm.  Nor did the countless oddities.  I listened and heard the masses applaud pronouncements that were and are contrary to the supposed “Progressive” platform.  I wondered, as did a Sun Sentinel Reporter.  The day after the “demonstration” of love and idolatry, Anthony Man penned, Did Obama know where he was for Sunrise rally?

In those days, the American people ignored the glaring contradictions and deluded themselves in regards to the challenges.  As a nation, we were enamored.  The possibility that someone might show us the way entranced the electorate.  People “hoped” this charismatic gentle man, “No Drama Obama” would be the calm after the storm.  Thus, with abundant anticipation, people said, ‘Come on board Barack.” Be our Commander-In-Chief.  Do as the public thinks should be done even if you never said you would.

A President should lead.  A President should stand for something.  A President should not be afraid of speaking bluntly –  to those who oppose him politically, to those who support him, to the American people.

Today, these same individuals utter in disgust or with much “disappointment” in a man who is as he told us he would be, ” You have on occasion demonstrated that you know how to do that. ”  Innumerable inquire with seemingly infinite support, Mister President,” Why did we not hear that blunt speech as this crisis was developing?”

In 2008 you inspired people with your words, with your call to something better…. Increasingly, many of us are giving up, pulling back, because we find we are not listened to.  Our concerns, if not ignored, are dismissed.

So go ahead Mr. President.  Ignore me.  Ignore all the voices that have been trying to explain to you, trying to help you help this country.  You might as well.  It seems as if you have been ignoring us all along.

In truth, it took two.  Hand-in-hand  we traveled with our peers, the future President, and together we gave rise to the rally cries.  Obama is the Change.   We have hope.  We believe, “Yes, we, he can!”  Once we were all aboard we proclaimed in unison, Senator Obama has the Audacity to Reclaim the American Dream..  He was indeed the candidate with the compelling biography. His mere presence propelled us to become passengers.  Today, together on the train once more, riders offer only remorse.

In the days and years to come, persons who never boarded the train, people who remained stalwart on the platform at the station will express the sentiment; once again.  The public ignored the candidate who is now President..  Just as assuredly passengers will shriek as they have “There are achievements.   I do not deny that.  But they are far from what we were promised, far from what we had reason to expect.”  Indeed historians and scribes will reason. Nonetheless, proclamations will persist, and defensive postures will seek solace in the safety of a crowd..

People will adopt a plea .”Perhaps it is arrogant to think my personal thoughts are of any value to anyone other than myself.  Yet when I offer them, people respond.  So long as they do, I will from time to time offer them.  As I did yesterday.  As I am doing today.”  Hmm?  Might these words be as candidate and President Obama would say?  As long as there are people aboard I am “fired up.” “Ready to go.” Climb onboard Americans.  Get ready for another ride.

References. Resources. Rally ‘Round and Ignore . . .

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Then, The Great Society. Now, The Suburbanization of Poverty



Lyndon B Johnson – The Great Society

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Then, in 1965, there was a vision.  President Lyndon Johnson addressed the tragedy that existed in America, poverty.  He had hoped to give birth to a Great Society.  Mister Johnson dreamed of the day when the truth of America reflected the richness that is often said to define this country.  Yet, his aspiration was deferred.  In a desire to create a Great Society, or two, one at home and one overseas, Lyndon Johnson lost his bearing. Ultimately, he destroyed most of what he hoped to build.  As President Obama begins his walk down a similar path, people ponder; what might President Obama plan and unintentionally promote.

For President Johnson, a single war, not the one on poverty, but instead the fight on foreign soil stood in the way of his, and America’s, true success.  The fiscal burden was a heavy weight on the nation’s budget.  Nevertheless, President Johnson insisted that the Administration ardently pursue American involvement in Vietnam while spending billions of dollars on domestic problems.  Much like our present President, Mister Obama, who eagerly escalates the war in Afghanistan, Lyndon Johnson believed he could attach inequities on the home front and still secure a win on distant shores.

Each Commander-In-Chief seemed to understand the excessive strain on the economy; yet, Johnson and Obama remained stalwart; they could do it all.  President Johnson, in time, relented.  He resigned himself to defeat.  He had not succeeded in his fight against poverty; nor did he triumph in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson exited the Executive Office without the legacy he had hoped to leave. Mister Obama, some say will realize the same fate.  Others observe that he has a luxury that President Johnson did not have.  Obama, just as his immediate predecessor had, learned from history.

In the mid-1960s, the Great Society was born and brushed aside.  The futility of the battles and American blood shed was a load too large for average citizens to bear.  Ordinary people protested.  The emphasis President Johnson had hoped to place on poverty was lost.  Thus, the desire to eliminate dearth in the world’s wealthiest country went by the wayside.  The thought to offer equal opportunities to the economically oppressed was forfeited.  Combat was far more visible then the poor.  This truth taught all President’s since Johnson that if you want the people to support your agenda, hide what you do not want the people to see.

Today, photographs of struggles do not fill the airwaves.  Earlier Administration made certain of this and the American people accepted the bliss of ignorance.  People in the States prefer to believe that they support the soldiers, even though American policies lead these young men and women to slaughter.

Radio Broadcasters barely, rarely, or never mention the body counts abroad.  Homeless persons, huddled together for warmth on the streets of the world’s wealthiest nation do not cause a stir.  Journalists just walk right past the indigents.  The fortunate few impecunious, those who can afford a room are easy to avoid, especially since they had dispersed.  The Suburbanization of Poverty helped to further isolate individuals who, most Americans, wish to keep invisible.

In the year 2010, there is no need to mention a misery out of sight, not the war in the Middle East or the economic conflict between the classes.  Announcers would rather rant, rage, and argue about Party politics, report on ploys, or discuss the latest and greatest scandal.

Then and now, the underprivileged are, time and again, avoided, ignored, or intentionally hidden. Embarrassed by their plight, the destitute do not speak up.  On occasion, these individuals are overwhelmed with what they must to do just to survive.  This serves Administrations well.  Issues, silently secured away from the masses, and the media, also work well for our Congressmen and women.  

Without awareness for the fallen, soldiers family’s, and the unfortunate thousands who do more than flirt with financial failures, Americans never think to address these costly concerns, poverty and warfare.  Legislators in our nation’s Capitol like that.

Therefore, those who lack a more powerful political presence require someone in Washington to talk for them.  Lyndon Johnson hoped to articulate what the all too frequently concealed could not.

Today, the disadvantaged have gone the way of the past President.  Frequently, they are the objects of scorn. People perceive the wars Johnson waged were lost.  Neither Vietnam, the conflict that the Johnson presidency is oft remembered for, nor the Great Society ended the way Mister Johnson envisioned.  In truth, no  Chief Executive of this country can move the mountains of policies that establish and maintain poverty.  That is a task only the people can accomplish.  We, the people, if change is to come, must never forget that we are the voice of the downtrodden, or could be.

However, in the many decades that have passed, the public has chosen not to take up the call.  Communities separate and on their own have not cared to become Great Societies. Instead, individually, and as neighbors, we have weakened the structure that could have supported those without the dollars to purchase the bootstraps the impoverished are told to use to pull themselves up.

As a nation, we do not provide adequate education for the poor.  Thus, success, or jobs that provide a sufficient salary are lost.  As a society, we relegate the less skilled to service positions.  They may live closer to the more stable and secure citizens, indeed, they may need to in order to survive. Yet, the penniless are no better off. They are barely able to adopt the label of Suburbanites.  This poverty-stricken population has boomed; yet, even in the ‘burbs the underprivileged are no better off, just better concealed

Please ponder the plight that currently permeates our Nation.  Text and statistics are presented below in The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008.


The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008


Elizabeth Kneebone, Senior Research Analyst and Emily Garr, Senior Research Assistant

The Brookings Institution

January 20, 2010

An analysis of the location of poverty in America, particularly in the nation’s 95 largest metro areas in 2000, 2007, and 2008 reveals that:

  • By 2008, suburbs were home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country. Between 2000 and 2008, suburbs in the country’s largest metro areas saw their poor population grow by 25 percent-almost five times faster than primary cities and well ahead of the growth seen in smaller metro areas and non-metropolitan communities. As a result, by 2008 large suburbs were home to 1.5 million more poor than their primary cities and housed almost one-third of the nation’s poor overall.
  • Midwestern cities and suburbs experienced by far the largest poverty rate increases over the decade. Led by increasing poverty in auto manufacturing metro areas-like Grand Rapids and Youngstown-Midwestern city and suburban poverty rates climbed 3.0 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively. At the same time, Northeastern metros-led by New York and Worcester- actually saw poverty rates in their primary cities decline, while collectively their suburbs experienced a slight increase.
  • In 2008, 91.6 million people-more than 30 percent of the nation’s population-fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More individuals lived in families with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of poverty line (52.5 million) than below the poverty line (39.1 million) in 2008. Between 2000 and 2008, large suburbs saw the fastest growing low-income populations across community types and the greatest uptick in the share of the population living under 200 percent of poverty.
  • Western cities and Florida suburbs were among the first to see the effects of the “Great Recession” translate into significant increases in poverty between 2007 and 2008. Sun Belt metro areas hit hardest by the collapse of the housing market saw significant gains in poverty between 2007 and 2008, with suburban increases clustered in Florida metro areas-like Miami, Tampa, and Palm Bay-and city poverty increases most prevalent in Western metro areas- like Los Angeles, Riverside, and Phoenix. Based on increases in unemployment over the past year, Sun Belt metro areas are also likely to experience the largest increases in poverty in 2009.
  • If common citizens are as committed to change as they said they were during the 2008 election cycle, let us look back so that we might move forward.  Consider the United States Constitution.  This divine document states, that average Americans, can petition our Representatives of what matters, society as a whole.  After all, it is we, the people, who place men and women into Congressional offices.  Our Senators, and those in the House, know who has the truest influence. Corporations cannot employ our Representatives without our permission. You, I, and even the registered impoverished voter, can, and must, create the Great Society that Lyndon Baines Johnson did not.  I think such a provision is our right and responsibility, For as Author John Donne recited . . .

    “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…

    As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….

    No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”


    ~ John Donne

    References for A Great Society Lost To War . . .

    He Works. We Wait



    “White House to Main Street” Town Hall: Elyria, OH

    copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    A recent change of the guard in the Massachusetts Senate race force the President to reveal he is working.  We, the American people, are waiting, just as we have been for months and months.  For a full year, countless citizens have felt as though they were patient.  Yet, the President did not seem to have their interests at heart.  True change has not come.  Countless constituents anticipate none is forthcoming.  Three hundred and sixty five plus have gone by and the American people are tired of being patient.

    The circumstances in their personal lives have proven to be critical, worse now than in 2009.  Oh, some remain hopeful. They continue to believe.  Several are waiting for Godot, who as we all know, never comes.  Millions await the Messiah.  Many thought Barack Obama was the great liberator.  This human was perchance, a deity, devotees continue to declare.  He is a divine being, or was in the eyes of the electorate before he entered the Oval Office.  Now, Americans are wasted, wanting.  They trusted and waited for him to transform the nation.  Today, the people wonder; is it too late.  

    Senator Obama was and is suave, sensitive, and a sensational orator.  Surely, words would become action.  Progressives suspended disbelief.  The Left listened to a man advocate for more war in Afghanistan. Then, they decided he was the profound peacemaker.  Conservatives too saw themselves in this gentleman.  He was polished, polite, and predominately known for his prestigious credentials. Hence, the fiscally traditional believed the wait was over.  Today, each of these exclaim, as President he is not the one.

    In contrast, the markedly Independent did not pause.  These mavericks need no intervals. The detractors, decidedly cynical, opinionated opponents, and the perpetually free from Party politics, never waited for what they wanted.  They did as they always have.  Raging Republicans and “free” thinking Independents gathered the reigns, took to the streets and stood firm.  They rallied the troops of discontented Americans.  They stood their ground.  These lovers of self-governing principles never grew weary.  Self-directed voters shouted; they screamed.  They garnered strength and swayed some from the Right and some from the Left to take their position.  We will kill the Obama agenda, shrieked crowds of “concerned” citizens.

    The Religious Right also does not hesitate.  Indeed, they never doubted that the person known as Barack Obama was not a savior.  He was, or so these individuals said, a “socialist.”  Committed Conservatives cringed at the notion that Mister Obama might be thought of as the embodiment of a second coming.  They would chortle in distress; perchance this President would be another Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    It was not difficult to persuade those who had previously adopted a wait and see approach.   Numerous issues have not been attended to.  The pledge to end “Don’t Ask. Don’t tell,” frustrated a few.  Gay or straight families and friends have become impatient.  The thought that Health Care For All was left for Congress to ponder, plan, and present was seen as folly. The President, who belatedly cajoled the House and the Senate, was thought ineffective or just not truly interested in the welfare of the people.  Then there were the financial woes the President promised to address and did not adequately do so.  Indeed, millions of citizens muse; Obama sold out.  Our Chief Executive appointed Wall Street insiders to serve as his economic team.  Each of these individuals held a singular intent.  With bailout bucks, they would buy friends, influence enemies, and reward former colleagues.

    Common citizens cried out in economic pain.  Rather than enact policies that might relieve the people’s plight, billions were bestowed upon wealthy bankers.

    Americans have been waiting for his audacity to bring more than hope for bipartisan approval on program after program.  Most of the electorate wanted Mister Obama to exit Iraq fully, not to leave tens of thousands of troops behind.   Numerous waited for him to assertively enact a renewable energy policy.  However, as was evident at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the President, does not plan to authentically regulate or reduce greenhouse gas  emissions.

    Since Mister Obama took office, small businessmen and women applied for loans, only to have their applications rejected.  Granted, he pressed bankers to respond to the needs of the little people.  Still, calls for cash went unheeded.  Underwater homeowners also pleaded.  Refinance my mortgage please.  Requests were denied.  Ultimately, days before voters in the Bay State cast a ballot for Scott Brown, a banner headline appeared in the local paper; Obama’s foreclosure relief program called a failure.  Most borrowers have not been helped.

    Credit card companies were allowed to go wild.  As the President observed, Credit has become “less of a lifeline and more of an anchor.”  Interest rates rose drastically, although not on personal savings accounts.  While the President proposed and [assed legislation to curb the crunch, The Credit Card Industry found other ways to avoid a pinch.  They will Profit From Sterling Payers.  Unemployed and underemployed, well, they were neglected just as they had been before the Messiah came.

    These troubles are not unique to any one region.  Trials and tribulations exist throughout the United States.

    While some may prefer to wait for the day when the President’s plans bear fruit, doubters do not.  For millions, the results in Massachusetts speak volumes.   These persons proclaim, this election, just as the two held months earlier, were not a reflection of a poorly run campaign by Martha Coakley, Virginia’s Creigh Deeds, or the New Jersey incumbent Democratic Governor, Jon Corzine.  All were sure signs of voter discontent.   The Republican wins were a blow for the Obama Administration.   Now, perhaps, the President will hear the message.

    Certainly, Obama enthusiasts have come to accept what cannot be avoided.  Americans lack confidence in the Commander-In-Chief.  The tidal wave of resentment has generated much concern. Loyalists, know not what to do.  They gather round cyberspace chat rooms.  Some seek solace in the acumen of broadcasters.  What will Keith, Rachel, or Jon Stewart say?  How might these masterful commentators direct the stalwart?  A few hop onto another bandwagon.  The theory is a populist philosophy will turn folks around.

    This is the position the White House adopts.  Shortly, after the special election results were released, Mister Obama answered without hesitation.  He stood before an audience in Elyria, Ohio, a community devastated by what some suggest is an economic Depression.  There the President enthusiastically proclaimed he is working for us.  For emphasis, Mister Obama forcefully opined, “Let me tell you – so long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I’ll never stop fighting for you.”  The Nation’s Chief Executive then assured average Americans, “(T)his isn’t about me. It’s about you.” Yet, this novel appearance calls Mister Obama’s assertion into question.

    Several observers stated Obama was back.  Fire was, once again, in his belly.  His campaigner style will certainly help his poll numbers to soar.  His persuasive presence would ensure a Democratic win.  However, the familiar rationale proved to be erroneous.

    The President had attempted to coax a Massachusetts crowd days before the dire voter decision.  At the behest of Martha Coakley, the nation’s Chief Executive rallied round the Democratic candidate.  Still his rhetoric could not reverse the momentum.  Indeed, what would be an overwhelming demise was delivered.

    Possibly, more than a mere Senate seat was lost.  Patience amongst Obama supporters has waned. The reality that American Independents and Republicans never looked back became more clear.  Scott Brown was but the amplification of the incensed mantra.  Stop health care. Do not provide civil trials for terrorists.  Rather than raise taxes; cut them. Secret backroom deals will not stand.  Special interests are not ours.  

    Average American Joe and Jane are jollied.  Unlike the blindly faithful, they knew not to wait for Barack Obama or Godot.  The energized, eager, and enraged took the government back.

    The hurt and hurting citizens saw that Barack Obama made the office his own, or perchance, he preserved the Clinton presidency.  The incensed did not trust the followers who point to the progress made in the effort to exit Iraq.  Instead, those outraged by slight concessions sympathized with the soldiers who struggle to survive on foreign soil.  

    Disheartened, even early supporters squeal at the reality this President has increased America’s involvement in the Middle Eastern affairs. The Obama Administration authorized targeted assassinations.

    Today, the once hopeful also speak out.  “He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For.”  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan did not foretell what was to come. Devotees did not expect the President to defend the latest unemployment numbers as the he did.   “The jobs numbers are reminder that the road to recovery is never straight.” This thought was not what disciples hoped for.  No, the devoted Obama aficionados did not expect him to  apolitically offer an axiom, the path towards peace. is a rough road to travel.  Nor did the dedicated expect that support of the Messianic President would equate to justification for a mixed record on Counterterrorism Reform.  

    Few from the Left thought they would help elect a Republican.  Dutiful Democrats could not imagine the day that they would declare I will wait no more.  For decades, people trusted, a President from their Party was, as Mister Obama opined, working for them.  Yet, this time, perhaps in the previous two elections, and in the next go round, the public will proclaim as Boston area Waitress Vitoria Vigna, did. “I am a Democrat and to say I voted Republican was, I was like, oh, my god, I’m voting Republican.”  However, as Ms Vigna expounded, the sentiment is, “people are more agitated and anxious and a lot of people’s attitude is what has really changed? Really?”  What has changed?  Possibly, the population has given up on Godot and on Presidents who they believe have not fully perform as promised.

    He Works. We Wait, or did . . .

    White Defenders



    racist16_400

    copyright © 2010 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

    Originally Published on Sunday, January 10, 2010

    In a private conversation reported in a new book, Reid described Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

    I have to be honest that I am always a bit skeptical when white folks feel compelled to step up and defend black folks from other white folks. I am even more cynical when it is white Republicans doing the defending. This would be the same Republican party who has since the 60’s run on the southern strategy, whose conventions look more like all-white country clubs, and who have from his election sought to de-legitimize this President. Now we are to believe that they are so concerned with the delicate psyche of African-Americans that Senator Reid’s remarks rises to the level of Trent Lott?

    For those who don’t remember Trent Lott was the Republican majority leader who stated that the country would have been better off if unrepentant segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.

    For the sake of argument, let’s look at Senator Reid’s reported statement concerning then Senator Obama. He stated that he was a light-skinned black man which as far as I can tell would be a true statement. My guess is that Senator Reid was alluding to the fact that historically lighter skinned blacks have fared better in American society than darker skinned blacks so that would be a positive in his bid to become president. On the surface this would appear to be a callous statement however if we look at not only the history of blacks within the majority society but also within the black community the statement tends to stand on its own merits. Now does this excuse the fact that darker-skinned blacks tend to be discriminated more than light-skinned blacks? Of course not, but the truth is still the truth.

    Let’s face it folks whites tend to be more comfortable with light-skinned blacks. If you were to poll blacks and say does the fact that President Obama is light-skinned does that diminish his status as an African-American I think the answer would be a resounding no based on the fact that he received almost 100% of the black vote.

    The second part of Senator Reid’s remarks could be more problematic in the sense that he stated that Obama had no Negro dialect which could be offensive to some blacks. The question then becomes do blacks, as a group, speak differently from whites and can those differences be readily apparent to the listener? I think Senator Reid was stating that Barack Obama could choose to speak black or white depending on his audience. The problem here is that we are talking about politicians who often craft their message depending on their audience and for a politician to be able to speak to multiple groups is an asset. I think I remember during the campaign how Hillary and Bill changed dialects when they were speaking in black churches or to primarily black audiences. Does that make them racists? I think not, it makes them politicians.

    As every successful black man knows who is not in the entertainment business or a professional athlete knows, we live in two different worlds we have to adept in the white world as well as the black world. I have to be able to speak to white businessmen as well as black community folks and they are not the same.

    The biggest problem I have with this faux Republican outrage is that in order to determine Reid’s remarks one has to look at his intent. Was his intent to racially disparage Barack Obama? No, in fact in his mind he was giving a list of the positives for then candidate Obama. We must remember this was the beginning of a historical campaign and who amongst us did not consider these if not other positives and negatives of the candidates. The problem for Senator Reid is that his remarks were recorded. To me this just demonstrates the problem with the current Republican strategy and that is it shows their total lack of principles. When you attack everything you find yourself defending some former positions that you once opposed, by doing this you appear hypocritical at best and insane at worse. Republicans defending Medicare?

    So what we have is Senator Reid stating that Barack Obama was a light-skinned black man who could speak to both black and white audiences. Yeah, that’s grounds for his immediate dismissal. Speaking as a black man I’m still missing the outrage no matter who had made the statement.

    For Michael Steele to go on television and equate what Senator Reid reportedly said to what Trent Lott said is beyond me. Are we to believe that saying the country would be better off today if in 1948 an avowed racist had won the Presidential election is comparable to saying that Barack Obama was more electable because he was light-skinned and he spoke to both blacks and whites? I don’t think so. Have we become so racially sensitive that stating the obvious is now considered racist? The reason Mr. Steele will never be able to accomplish what he was elected to do which I think was to reach out to African-American voters is because in order to defend his task masters he losses any credibility with the very voters he is charged with attracting. Mr. Steele’s remarks may appeal to whites but if that is his core audience then the Republicans would have better served if they had elected another white man who would not have brought the baggage Mr. Steele has obviously brought. Do Republicans believe that blacks are that gullible? I hope not for their sakes.

    “Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

    ~ Elbert Hubbard  

    Tortured

    copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    Never for a moment in my life have I been “in love.”  I do not believe in the notion.  Fireworks have not filled my heart.  Flames of a fiery passion do not burn within me.  Indeed, my soul has not been ablaze.  Thoughts of a hot-blooded devotion seem illogical to me.  Such sentiments always have.  Fondness too fertile is but torture for me.  I admire many, and adore none.  For me, the affection I feel for another is born out of sincere and profound appreciation.  To like another means more to me than to love or be loved.  Excitement, an emotional reaction to another, rises up within me when I experience an empathetic exchange with someone who has glorious gray matter.

    Today, it happened.  I felt an a twinge that startled me.  I stood still as he entered the room.  I expected nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing other than what has become his recently adopted, more avoidant, routine.  Although long ago, I had become accustomed to his face, his voice, and his demeanor, for I have known the man for more than a few years.  In the last few weeks, while essentially he is who he always was, some of his stances have changed.  Possibly, Barry has felt a need to compromise his positions, but I wonder; what of his principles.

    Early on, I knew that he and I differed in some respects.  While we each loathe drama, I was never certain if he felt as I do; love need not be a tortuous trauma.  Barry spoke of the need to work together.  Yet, not necessarily in aspect of life.  At times, he advocated aggressive actions I could not consider.  This, for me, caused much confusion.  Nonetheless, I liked the man I saw before me.

    I recall the day we first met, face-to-face.  We shook hands.  He smiled.  Barry was polite, not pushy.  Amiable is the way I would describe him.  Then, the second time we saw each other, we had a more extensive conversation.  He took my hand in his.  We each spoke with greater sincerity.  As Barry and I chatted, he looked me straight in the eye.  He listened to my personal tale.  Visibly, he pondered the story I shared.  Barry responded so genuinely to my inquiry, albeit an unconventional concern, I was surprised.  Indeed, I was impressed, although less than I was when I read what he had written.

    His books moved me.  The more autobiographical tome endeared him to me.  His notes on hope did not lack the spirit to inspire me.  As one who “loves” to learn, which differs from the impulsive idea that I might be “in love,” a person that can kindle my earnest thirst for knowledge truly electrifies me.  I recall the moment I read the text that, all these years later, still resonates within me.  Barry humbly offered, in a discussion of empathy . . .

    It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule – not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

    Barry told tales of his mother, his grandfather, and how through his interactions with each he realized there is reason to think “about the struggles and disappointments” others have seen in their lives.  Reflection helped the younger Barry understand, every individual is not solely right or wrong.  If he were to insist that, his way was the only approach that worked, “without regard to his [or her] feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.”  Such awareness, such a superior soul; Barry showed what I believe to be a human’s greatest strength, vulnerability.  Were I to have a heart to win, the words of this gentle-man could have surely swept me off my feet.

    Even his calm demeanor is as I desire and live.  Those close to me wonder of my own emotional tranquility.  From his manner and manuscript, it would seem Barry believes as I do.  Empathy elicits equilibrium.  Today, he seemed to embrace this notion once again.  We can choose to love our neighbors.  We need not torture “those who are different from us.”

    Near noon, on April 23, 2009, at the Holocaust days of Remembrance Ceremony, Barry, the now President of the United States, Barack Obama spoke of this belief again.  Once more, I felt a pang for the person who oft-expressed a profound connection to the feelings of another.  The sweet soul who can bring me to tears, did so once again.  On this historic occasion, Barry shared a profound realization through a personal story.  The subject; the Holocaust and the torture our forebears felt or beheld.

    In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.  My own great uncle returned from his service in World War II in a state of shock, saying little, alone with painful memories that would not leave his head.  He went up into the attic, according to the stories that I’ve heard, and wouldn’t come down for six months.  He was one of the liberators — someone who at a very tender age had seen the unimaginable.  And so some of the liberators who are here today honor us with their presence — all of whom we honor for their extraordinary service.  My great uncle was part of the 89th Infantry Division — the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp.  And they liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, where tens of thousands had perished.

    Stunned, by the saga, and the words that preceded the legend, I began to believe again.  Perhaps the Barry I admire had a change of heart.  Policies he never fully embraced, might not seem reasonable to him now.

    During the campaign, Barry, Senator Barack Obama only promised to investigate, not to prosecute.  Many months ago, before the August 2008 declaration, and thereafter, I had thought his stance reflected his vast ability to empathize.  Yet, in the light of the ample evidence, most if not all of which affirms the Bush Administration engaged in extreme methods of interrogation, President Obama still supports or chooses to sustain a position that negates empathy for the victims.  I shudder to think of how the Seventh Generation might be affected.

    Hence, I am left to question what I thought was truth.  Was the empathy I envisioned not as sincere as I hoped it to be?  Perchance that is why, for me, love is as torture.  I have faith no one has the power to disappoint me.  Only my choices can be a source of much concern.  For as long as I can recall, I have observed, once infatuation fades, we learn as I had before Barry entered the Oval Office.  He is but another human.  He embraces and then forgets, the power of empathy and the force of our past?

    When, in homage to Holocaust victims, and survivors of a heinous hostility that forever stains world history, I sensed he knew.  As I looked on, I forgot the setting.  Intent on the torrent of news on torture techniques I read and heard throughout the day, I made an erroneous connection.  As Barry, President Obama spoke of the deeds done in decades past, and those crimes committed by the previous Administration, I imagined the man I thought I knew meant to express empathy for those who suffered at the hands of Americans.  The Chief Executive, on behalf of the United States avowed.

    Their legacy is our inheritance.  And the question is, how do we honor and preserve it?  How do we ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?

    I believe we start by doing what we are doing today — by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator.

    In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.

    I cried.  Tremendously thankful for the oratory, indeed, I must say, for a second, I was elated.  I wondered.  Had the person many think beloved, the individual I at least treasure, decided to rescind his prior position?

    Might he have rejected the thought offered recently; “nothing will be gained by our time and energy laying blame for the past,”  

    Could it be the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony helped the President to renew his faith in his earlier expression;  “(H)istory returns “with a vengeance . . . “(A)s Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried — it isn’t even past.”  I hoped.

    Perchance, he had worked through a struggle I too experience.  As one who has no desire to hurt others, even those who have physically and psychologically harmed individuals, and our country’s image, how might I think prosecution is just?  

    I truly embrace such an honorable ability to seek no retribution.  Indeed, I may not fall “in love”; nonetheless, I would hope to live love.  

    I feel harsh reprisals are never wise.  I also accept the enduring wisdom of a finer balance.  I have experienced the need to empathize and the conflict of what I might do if one I treasure intentionally injures another.  I have come to discover, if deleterious deeds are allowed to stand, sooner or later the other, I, and perchance, society will be subjected to adulterations that individuals or a culture cannot endure.

    Awful actions we accept, avoid, or merely do not acknowledge become a foundation for the future.  Humans inure.  Lest we forget the Milgram shock experiment of decades ago, or the knowledge that when repeated in the present, proves again, as a Psychologist, Thomas Blass, espoused in  “The Man Who Shocked the World.” Milgram extrapolated, to larger events like the Holocaust, or Abu Ghraib.  “people can act destructively without coercion.”  “In things like interrogations, we don’t know the complexities involved.  People are under enormous pressure to produce results.”  

    I wonder how many Americans came to accept violence as a necessity on September 11, 2001.  On that dreadful day, a date that now lives in infamy, all Americans were placed in a precarious position.  With the threat of terror etched into our every cell, each of us had to ask, what were we to do.  In the 2004 edition of Dreams From My Father, the Barry, who I trusted to be so thoughtful whispered his woe for what might occur once the “world fractured.” He penned . . .

    This collective history, this past, directly touches my own . . .

    I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair.  I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder — alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware — is inadequate to the task.  I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

    Those are the words of the Barry I was inspired to meet, the person I was reminded of when he stood with an audience of individuals who never forget the agony of torture.  Today, as that empathetic soul, the President referred to the future, the generations to come, he stated, “We find cause for hope” when “people of every age and faith and background and race (are) united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.”  I thought of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay prison, and the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the need to empathize with victims of “extreme duress.”

    Oblivious to the purpose of this particular speech, in my moment of stupor, I surmised Mister Obama had not only accepted the association, but perhaps had realized what could occur if the transgressions of the previous Administration were allowed to stand as if all was in the past.

    “Barry,” Barack, the Commander-In-Chief, further elucidated; “Those [persons] can be our future . . . (D)uring this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection, and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done. And may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

    I imagined the reference was to empathy, to the paradigms I too embrace. Punishment offers no benefits for people.  Yet, there is a need to prosecute the culpable, to ensure that people are answerable for the most atrocious aggressions.  It is vital, if we wish to prevent the numbness that humans so easily adopt, we must bring torture to the full light of day.  Torment executed in our names, I think Barry would agree, hurts us.  Surely, General and President Eisenhower did.  Mister Obama acknowledged this only hours ago .

    Eisenhower understood the danger of silence.  He understood that if no one knew what had happened, that would be yet another atrocity — and it would be the perpetrators’ ultimate triumph.

    What Eisenhower did to record these crimes for history is what we are doing here today.  That’s what Elie Wiesel and the survivors we honor here do by fighting to make their memories part of our collective memory.  That’s what the Holocaust Museum does every day on our National Mall, the place where we display for the world our triumphs and failures and the lessons we’ve learned from our history.  It’s the very opposite of silence.

    But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation — it’s just the beginning.  We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth.  We’ve seen it in this century in the mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground, and children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war.

    Barry knows what President Obama. spoke of in his address at the Holocaust Day of Remembrance Ceremony  Love needed not be tortured.  Expressions of fondness are found in empathy, not extreme duress.

    President Eisenhower understood as I had hoped, on this day, Barry Obama had.  What occurs far from view is never truly unseen.  Nor can avoidance erase the scars left on a heart. While as a country, or as individuals we may prefer to retreat to the attic as President Obama’s great uncle did, in truth, it is impossible to forget.

    People who participated know this to be so. A belatedly brave Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Ali Soufan, tell his tales of sorrowful love in My Tortured Decision.  The mediator recalls how for seven years he has remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.  Mister Soufan, as General Eisenhower did before him saw the need to “shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.”

    I inquire; what will Barry do, and what of President Obama.  Will the man who once held my hand and professed a need to be empathetic do as he declares his commitment? “(W)e have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges.”  Might he instead do as he hopes we will not, “wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others’ sufferings are not our own,”

    I can only hope Barry will encourage the President to heed his own call. “(W)e have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take — whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place . . .”

    Let us never forget Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib, or any America penitentiary camp, need not be our holocaust.   Tales of tortured love need not be an American truth.

    References for tortured love . . .

    Capitalism; Dead, Alive, and Broken

    Cptlsm

    copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    For but a moment, whilst the Group of 20 [G20] met in London’s ancient financial capital, ,”The City,” the roars of remorse, could be heard.  Words of woe had been whispered in hushed tones for quite some time.  Scholars spoke of various possibilities on occasion.  Whether Senior Economic Fellows from various think-tanks thought a system to be dead, alive, or near doomed, there was perhaps a bit of agreement.  “I see what you mean.  It is broken,” Economist Mark Thoma mused more than a year ago.  

    The public screamed out in pain for decades; however, few cared about the cries of countless common folks.  Those who argued against principles that place profits before people were easily ignored for they had no power and less influence.  Much to the chagrin of corporate titans, even Economists warned; this could be the end of Capitalism.  Yet, until early in the day, only weeks ago, no one paid much attention to what has become a customary declaration for everyday workers.  Morning has broken, and Capitalism is shattered as well.  

    America adopted and advanced a system that was unsustainable..  More than once, “systemic failures” revealed the folly of free enterprise principles.  Nonetheless, worldwide people were convinced to purchase damaged goods and premises.  Yet, as Journalist Professor, Robert Jensen contends, “most notably those in the business world and their functionaries and apologists in the schools, universities, mass media, and mainstream politics” do not want to admit that this is so.

    Wanted; Dead or Alive

    The evidence is everywhere.  What was a question rarely uttered, “Is Capitalism Dead?” has become a statement, or perhaps the dream of those who have been severely affected by this most devastating downturn.

    Wealthy watch breathlessly as stock markets crash.  Banks fail.  Blue Chip companies crumble.  Foreclosures flourish, and people, those once thought prosperous, pour out onto the avenue in search of a job, or some sense of stability.

    Perhaps, that is why, average citizens felt a need to break the silence, to speak of the broken Capitalist system.  In the shadow of powerful and prosperous Presidents and Prime Ministers, who gathered together for the G20 Conference, 4,000 demonstrators pleaded, not for pity, but for relief from a fiscal system that requires poverty.  

    Frustrated and forlorn by an attitude that fosters further advancement of free market principles, at least in the United Kingdom, dissenters shouted in disgust.  It would not be wise to work within an economic structure that changed the global culture in ways that ultimately brought international institutions down.  

    On a fateful day, early in April a young girl in the crowd, Aeyla Windridge pleaded.  I want “the death of Capitalism.”  The twelve-year-old spoke to what Heads of State had not for centuries.  “Capitalism isn’t in crisis, capitalism is the crisis,” so said another activist.  

    Recovery, Reinvestment, and Rescue

    Few of the principal players, those who represented the twenty participant countries were willing, or able to acknowledge the free market theory is flawed.  Most of the prominent Heads of State were, and continue to be, content with sanguine assessments.  Up to 85 percent of global gross national product comes from the shores of but a score of countries.  Eighty [80] percent  of world trade comes from these territories.  Americans, who might be thought of as the authors of Capitalism, saw and see no reason to change the status quo, at least not substantially.

    Borrow and spend had worked well in the past for the superpower, or so the US government attempted to advocate.  While the President poses this philosophy cannot stand, America must move away “from an era of borrow-and-spend to one where we save and invest,” in the same breath, the Chief Executive who represents the country that gave birth to free enterprise, endorses the framework, just as those who preceded him did. (Please peruse the text What Ever Happened to Free Enterprise, By Ronald Reagan)

    Capitalism, the Obama Administration states, was not the cause of the planet-wide monetary collapse.  Only greed, excesses, and a lack of regulations brought about the demise of the dollar, and the rate of exchange.  As he addressed other world leaders in attendance at the G20 Conference President Obama conceded, “the crisis began in the United States.  I take responsibility even if I wasn’t even president at the time.” However, Mister Obama contends all countries must be accountable for this massive macro-breakdown.  America’s Chief Executive proposes plans intended to strengthen a Capitalist structure.

    In his April 4, 2009 Action to Address to the Global Economic Downturn, President Obama encouraged more regulations in an attempt to expand a consumer-based Capitalist theory.  With little regard for how the American way of life, which the President does not apologize for, cripples common, people throughout the world, Mister Obama declared.

    “(W)e know that the success of America’s economy is inextricably linked to that of the global economy. If people in other countries cannot spend, that means they cannot buy the goods we produce here in America,  . . . if we continue to let banks and other financial institutions around the world act recklessly and irresponsibly, that affects institutions here at home as credit dries up, and people can’t get loans to buy a home or car, to run a small business or pay for college.

    Ultimately, the only way out of a recession that is global in scope is with a response that is global in coordination.”

    One is reminded of why, in earlier years, no one spoke vociferously of the crisis that is Capitalism.  Ordinary people were busy.  For centuries, regular folks worked day and night only to bring home a nominal paycheck.  Even in prosperous nations, people could barely afford to put food on the table.  People took trivial jobs just to secure shelter.  Millions felt forced to pursue professional paths that offer few rewards.  The only goal for the average Joe and Jane was to stay afloat.  Few have had the time or energy to protest their circumstances, or what the powers-that-be had and have imposed internationally.  Today, and in the past, worldwide economic slavery has sufficed.  That is until now.  

    Lest the President and Prime Ministers elsewhere forget, in the States, and abroad, people are out of work.  The promise of an ownership society,where “people, from all walks of life,” would open the door of their private residence and say, “Welcome to my home” proved to be but a myth.  The pledge of plump stock portfolios for everyone through Capitalism was a claim never substantiated.  Contrary to the oft-voiced assurances, the American Dream could be achieved anywhere on Earth If people only invested in a free market economy, this current fiscal crisis has shown the world, words were but wishes promoted by the prosperous.

    Regardless of how average people are punished by a fiscal formula that requires there be poor people, the current President intends to preserve the Capitalist principles that govern a global economy.  While Mister Obama may not profess a commitment to an “ownership society,” he too wishes to encourage people to possess what they cannot afford.  

    Broken Beyond Benevolence

    In contrast, more than a few Economists have begun to contemplate the wisdom of a system based on constant consumption.  Experts in monetary movements examine, What went wrong and, rather more importantly for the future, what did not. Other statistician who study the social science of fiscal affairs suggest there is ““Good Capitalism, (and) Bad Capitalism.”  Certainly, no matter the belief, with cause, “Capitalism is under fire.”  

    William Pfaff, the author of eight books on American foreign policy, international relations, and contemporary history has pondered the depths of a paradigm profoundly broken. Mister Pfaff offers a perspective less limited than the simpler theories often presented by Administrations and Academics.  The  observer of intercontinental issues writes . . .

    The essential question is, what capitalism are we talking about? Since the 1970s, two fundamental changes have been made in the leading (American) model of capitalism.

    The first is that the “stakeholder,” post-New Deal reformed version of capitalism (in America) that prevailed in the West after World War II was replaced by a new model of corporate purpose and responsibility.

    The earlier model said that corporations had a duty to ensure the well-being of employees, and an obligation to the community (chiefly but not exclusively fulfilled through corporate tax payments).

    That model has been replaced by one in which corporation managers are responsible for creating short-term “value” for owners, as measured by stock valuation and quarterly dividends.

    The practical result has been constant pressure to reduce wages and worker benefits (leading in some cases to theft of pensions and other crimes), and political lobbying and public persuasion to lower the corporate tax contribution to government finance and the public interest.

    In short, the system in the advanced countries has been rejigged since the 1960s to take wealth from workers, and from the funding of government, and transfer it to stockholders and corporate executives.

    There is ample evidence to support the author’s contention.  In 1970, the recipient of a Nobel Memorial Prize on Economic Sciences, Milton Friedman, encouraged an emphasis on corporate earnings. A culture that creates a vibrant community, Friedman insisted is counter to “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”

    Decades later, his disciples of sorts, Presidents Ronald Reagan,  George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, each implemented plans that increased earned income for the influential and decreased available dollars for the already disadvantaged.  Policies designed to protect and promote an American entrepreneurial taxonomy, or Capitalistic interests, were proposed as a means to spread democracy.  Planet-wide, people and economic practices were transformed.

    The second change that has taken place is globalization.  The crucial effect of this for society in the advanced countries is that it puts labor into competition with the poorest countries on earth.

    We need go no further with what I realize is a very complex matter, other than to note the classical economist David Ricardo’s “iron law of wages,” which says that in conditions of wage competition and unlimited labor supply, wages will fall to just above subsistence.

    There never before has been unlimited labor.  There is now, thanks to globalization – and the process has only begun.

    The variance is vast.  Those who have possess so much.  The portion of population that owns little, have far less than even an average individual might imagine.  The wealthy cannot conceive of a life where food might be the most valuable commodity.  A world in which water is worth more than gold seems unthinkable to those who thrive in “civilized” communities,  Yet, this reality may come to towns in a Capitalist country.   Indeed, in some American communities, this truth appears today.

    Nonetheless, agreements secured at the G20 summit ensure the adoption of a debt-driven American-style “democracy.”  An arrangement, in which all are not created equal, will continue to be the practiced and preferred economic system planet-wide.  People will once again forget assessments presented less than a decade ago.


    Many of the radicals leading the protests may be on the political fringe.  But they have helped to kick-start a profound re-thinking  about globalization among governments, mainstream economists, and corporations that, until recently, was carried on mostly in obscure think tanks and academic seminars.

    The reassessment is badly overdue.  In the late 20th century, global capitalism was pushed by leaps in technology, the failure of socialism, and East Asian’s seemingly miraculous success.  Now, it’s time to get realistic.  the plain truth is that market liberalization by itself does not lift all boats, and in some cases, it has caused damage to poor nations.  What’s more, there’s no point denying that multi-nationals have contributed to labor, environmental, and human rights abuses as they pursue profits around the globe . . .

    (After a ten-year expansion of market capitalism around the world, as of the year 2000) The World Bank figures the number of people living on a $1 a day increased to 1.3 billion, over the past decade.

    The extremes of global capitalism are astonishing . . .  If global capitalism’s flaws aren’t addressed, the backlash could grow more severe.

    Indeed, the repercussions have been relentless.  Near a century of consumption, solely for the sake of profits, has weakened the world.  The current fiscal crisis reveals Capitalism was never the cure for what ails the people on this planet.  Persistent poverty, and the threat of increased insolvency, born out of a free enterprise system is an expense few, if any, can afford.  One need only look at Capitalism, and what it has wrought.  Acquisitive individuals may acknowledge one reaps what one sows.  Independently, or collectively, as a global community anyone might come to understand, “If my brother is poor, I/we too will suffer.  Ultimately, I/we will pay for the poverty I/we accept.”  

    Without such a realization, and inspired by the spirit of an individualism that has flourished amongst free-marketers, people may, as President Obama proclaimed.  Worldwide, or here at home, we “want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that [has] been missing.”  However, it is not another glorious “morning in America.”  Nor is it a beautiful day in most neighborhoods.  Were the clouds to clear, globally people might avow, authentically, there need be an actual new dawn.  It is time to dream of economic structures that have never been.

    The majorities in the States, and throughout the globe, are no longer silent.  Common folks have spoken.  Capitalism is broken.  It is not wanted, dead or alive.

    Sources for economic and empathetic structures . . .

    Obama; State Secrets A Shame



    Countdown: Turley on Obama Administration Invoking State Secrets on Surveillance Program

    copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    Today, the Obama truth is revealed.  Change has come in the form of familiarity.  Some American’s are embarrassed.  Others embrace what, when presented by the previous Administration, they rejected.  Apathy helps most Americans to avoid a sense of shame.  It was announced;  Obama defends Bush-era secrets.  This Administration has gone further to establish government sovereignty.  As a nation, the Obama White House tells citizens, our country will be better protected if details about the surveillance program are considered “Top Secret – Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

    Several knew this too would come to pass.  Authentic transformation was but a tease meant to achieve supremacy for Senator Obama.  In the Summer of 2008, the Illinois statesman voted to give George W. Bush more power than even the former President requested.  The issue; the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA.  The controversial ballot cast by then Senator Obama did not capture the attention of most.  People were consumed by woes that were more personal.  Privacy is a right most in the United States take for granted.  Until an event in an individual’s life awakens awareness for what was taken away long ago, most do not realize in America the Administration is legally able to watch and listen to a residents’ every move.

    The media did not devote much time to Senator Obama’s, measured move.  More importantly, from a business perspective, news stories that address surveillance do not receive a larger share of the audience.  Perchance, auspiciously, for our current President, last July campaign distractions dominated the news cycle.  In 2009, talk of the economy is thought most essential.  Indeed, the United States had already experienced an authentic transformation.

    After the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001, the electorate accepted the Bush Administration’s truth.  That is why there are few cries of alarm for the White House’s current claim.  The two are close to the same Each Oval Office expounded; there is a constant threat of terrorist aggressions.  Presidents’ need to have the power to act on “Intelligence.”  Privacy for citizens must be forfeited.  The Patriot Act needed to be passed.  (Please read the text.)  The Commander-In-Chief must have all the authority he or she requests if the American people are to stay safe.  

    Hence, convinced of the need to be forever vigilant, countrymen and women changed near a decade ago.  The public became accustomed to constant shadowing.  In the recent past and present, the press presumes correctly.  There is no need to question what collectively, the public concluded justifiable.

    It was as it is, apt to assume there was no tale to tell when Congress, with Obama in the Senate authorized the wonderful world of unlawful White House sanctioned wiretaps.  Nor is there a public interest story when the current occupant of the Oval Office through the Department of Justice proclaims, undercover work, legal or not, is necessary.  Americans have come to acknowledge, in dire times such as these, perhaps, the Administration needs be above the law.  The people need not have the power to sue for improprieties or illegalities.

    Perhaps, this explains what was and continues to persist.  Less than a year ago, little time was spent on what candidate Obama justified as wise.  The few who expressed apprehension were eschewed.  Thoughts that often, history is repeated, were rejected.  Fear that what occurred today might follow was thought folly.  Regard for the notion, a President with power will not likely relinquish authority bestowed upon him or her, was ridiculed.  Then, as now, those scant individuals who voiced distress were easily dismissed as cynics.  They were relegated to the position of people without faith in the greater cause.  

    Supporters of President Obama, sustain hope.  Activists felt, and continue to believe; this time is different.  Barack Obama, or the people who coalesced to create a vibrant civically responsible community, will indeed prevail.  The population is the change we can believe in, or would be were it not for the fact that under the direction of the Obama Justice Department, the government can wiretap without a warrant and still, not be charged with a crime.

    Only this week, loyalist recount the rhetoric and rejoice in the knowledge; in countries such as Turkey Obama is a hit! Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, on MSNBC‘s Hardball said Obama “is putting himself forth as . . .president to the world.”  Countless partisans are reassured, assured; as Commander-In-Chief, the man who promised to work for the people, would do what was “right” for everyone on this Earth.  

    Yet, less than three months in office, the tide has turned, and not for the better.  Obama Administration quietly expanded Bush’s legal defense of wiretapping program.  Indeed, as President, Barack Obama did as he pledged not to do.  Candidate Obama had declared There would be No warrantless wiretaps if you elect me.  Yet, trust in that promise has become another American shame.

    (L)ate Friday afternoon, the  Obama DOJ filed the government’s first response to EFF’s lawsuit (.pdf), the first of its kind to seek damages against government officials under FISA, the Wiretap Act and other statutes, arising out of Bush’s NSA program.  But the Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the “state secrets” privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and  (2)  a brand new “sovereign immunity” claim of breathtaking scope — never before advanced even by the Bush administration — that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is “willful disclosure” of the illegally intercepted communications.  

    In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad “state secrets” privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and — even if what they’re doing is blatantly illegal and they know it’s illegal — you are barred from suing them unless they “willfully disclose” to the public what they have learned. . . .

    This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ’s, and the ample time that elapsed — almost three full months — makes clear that it was fully considered by Obama officials.  Yet, they responded exactly as the Bush DOJ would have.  This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used — not only when the Obama DOJ is taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance.  Everything for which Bush critics excoriated the Bush DOJ — using an absurdly broad rendition of “state secrets” to block entire lawsuits from proceeding even where they allege radical lawbreaking by the President and inventing new claims of absolute legal immunity — are now things the Obama DOJ has left no doubt it intends to embrace itself.

    Only days earlier an evaluation of the Obama White House evoked concern.  Obama Finds That Washington’s Habits of Secrecy Die Hard.  Might Americans particularly those who trusted President Obama would change an Administration’s corrupt practices, consider, as a candidate, an aspirant  Barack Obama built the foundation that now supports him.  The Obama Administration, the Government opts for secrecy in wiretap suit.  Those who today continue to purport, “I pledge my allegiance to President, Barack Obama,” or even only to his plans, may consider the thought.  Past is prologue.  

    If Americans do not acknowledge the significance of early actions on the part of Presidential aspirants, if the people hold onto false hope, the electorate hurts itself.  Rights to privacy lost will  not only  be retained but also enhanced.  If citizens trust a challenger will be the change we can believe in, even when he reveals he is not, then, we can expect what will come.  Telephones will be tapped.  Surveillance will pass for security.  The fact that Americans allowed the same intrusive policies to persist is our shame.  

    References; the loss of civil liberties restored . . .

    Obama’s Strategy on Afghanistan

    copyright © 2099 Jerome Grossman.  Relentless Liberal

    It is difficult, even impossible, to accept President Obama’s “New strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” as described by him in a formal speech on March 27.  It fails by imperial and non-imperial standards.

    First the imperial: Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent, reports in his book Nemesis: “The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  In his 1996 memoir, former CIA Director Robert Gates acknowledges that the American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before it.  President Carter’s purpose was to provoke a full-scale Soviet military intervention to tie down the USSR.”  Will an expanded military effort in Afghanistan tie down the U.S. as it did the USSR?

    Obama plans a U.S. military effort in Afghanistan lasting at least five years in a country 50% larger than Iraq in area and population.  The NATO allied forces are token in size and commitment and rarely leave their base camps.  A serious U.S. military effort will require at least 250,000 troops tied down in Afghanistan/Pakistan.  Will America be unable to react to other challenges as they arise especially its obligations, to protect Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, to deter Iran from a nuclear program, to support Pakistan from collapse; etc?

    The invasion of Iraq could be justified on imperial grounds because it is strategically situated in the heart of the largest concentration of oil in the world.  Afghanistan has no comparable resource, one of the poorest countries, no industry, little farming, rugged terrain, a land of banditry and bribery.

    The adventure fails from a non- imperial perspective.  Obama says “That country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”  None of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 criminal tragedy were Afghan or Taliban.  Fifteen of them were Saudi.  There are no Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan any longer.  Osama bin Laden and what is left of his crew is in hiding somewhere in the wilderness of Pakistan.  The Al Qaeda operation is scattered and disorganized.  Yes, another 19 thugs could infiltrate the U.S. and kill Americans, but sending an army into Afghanistan is not going to prevent another such criminal act.  In fact, the hyped war in Afghanistan is more likely to divert us from protecting ourselves against another September 11.

  • Obama’s Strategy on Afghanistan
  • The Afghan Cemetery

    copyright © 2009 Jerome Grossman.  Relentless Liberal

    President Obama indicated through his press secretary that his administration would review its policy toward Afghanistan before making a decision about sending additional troops to fight in that country.  Richard Holbrooke, his envoy, was in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region talking with leaders about how best to address the military and political situation.  Obama also met with advisers at the Pentagon and the State Department.

    As recently as February 15, it was reported that Obama “is refusing to be rushed into his first decision to send troops into combat  . . . questioning the time table, the mission and even the composition of the new forces.”  However, Obama changed his mind on February 17, authorizing 17,000 additional soldiers and Marines for Afghanistan in what he described as an urgent bid to stabilize a deteriorating and neglected country, joining the 30,000 U.S. troops already there.

    Obama will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  His order leaves crucial questions of strategy and tactics in Afghanistan unanswered until the strategy review is completed in April.  Antiwar groups criticized Obama’s decision.  Tom Andrews, director of Win Without War said, “The president is committing these troops before he’s determined what the mission is…..  We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.”

    The hasty decision ignored the many negative comments about the prospects for a U.S. victory.  General David Petraeus has called Afghanistan “the graveyard of empires.”  Holbrooke reported “a purely military victory is not achievable.”  British historians furnish the details of their three failed military attempts to pacify the country.  Twenty years after the troops of the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in defeat, the last Russian general to command them said on Feb 13 that the Soviets’ devastating experience, losing more than 15,000 troops in Afghanistan battling guerrillas “is a dismal omen for the U.S.”

    Supporters of expanded U.S. military operations in Afghanistan cite the successes of the American military against the Taliban in October and November, 2001, immediately after the tragedy of September 11.  However, that victory was accomplished by air power and bribery.  Airpower prevented Taliban military operations.  Hundred dollar bills bought warlord allies in this corrupt country whose main product is opium.

    Can we do it again, bribing our way through the drug lords?  Perhaps.  But history shows that Afghans don’t stay bought and that the guerrillas motivated by rebellion and nationalism will fight the invaders for hundreds of years, making a bandit’s living out of their tactics as they have done for time immemorial.

    Don’t think that General Petraeus does not know how to use money as a weapon.  While he was installing the “Surge” in Iraq adding 30,000 fresh troops with great fanfare, he was quietly bribing the insurgent Sunnis with $20 dollar bills and rifles, paying 100,000 warriors to stop fighting the Americans.